The blessing of every marriage is the fruit of the womb. This was also the expectation of young Rosemary when she got married at the age of 15. However, losing her two children in somewhat strange circumstances changed the course of her life and drew her closer to God.
The establishment of “Children of Mary” orphanage home in 1990 was a divine call to serve humanity and an evidence of the covenant she made with God when she lost her second child.
Over the last 27 years, the orphanage has served as safe haven for abandoned children and children whose parents died while giving birth. The orphanage has restored hope to these vulnerable children as the founder ensures they have access to quality education. The home has also helped in reconciling some of the children to their original families.
NaijaBlazers visited the orphanage and had a chat with Mrs. Rosemary Obi Oganyi, the founder of “Children of Mary “orphanage home. Below are the excerpts
How did the journey start for you?
I married at a very young age, precisely at the age of 15. I lost my first baby after two years. I took in again, gave birth to the baby on the 27th of October and lost my second child same date, same month as my first child. They both died at exactly the same date and month. At that point, I became worried and decided to seek God and learn more about Him. I started off at Ikot – Ekpene, where I was taught how to fast. After two months at Ikot- Ekpene, we were sent to Igwenga, where we spent three months, thereafter, we came to Opobo town. I remained on the island there for three months fasting and praying, then I made a covenant with God that I didn’t want to have any baby again unless the two boys that died came back to life. I was about 19 years when I entered into this covenant with God as a result of the love I had for my dead sons.
After the prayer, I had a feeling that God answered my prayers because ever since then, I never got pregnant until I lost my husband in 1969. When I left Opobo and moved back to Enugu, I started having dreams and vision about having many children.
At times, our lady would show me an image of a triangle with seven stars and said it was a symbol of the numerous children I would have on earth. She would say even though I thought I had no child, those with children will come and beg me to help take care of their own children. I am glad that those things are happening now. Today, I am a proud mother of 95 children. I thank God that the Lord has been my strength.
Did you have the opportunity of telling your husband about the covenant you had with God and, if you did, how did he receive the news?
I didn’t tell him, but I know now he’s in a secret place before the Lord and he knows. It wasn’t as if I hid it from him, but it was a covenant between God and me which he answered by not letting me get pregnant again.
What were the challenges you faced at the beginning?
The challenges are still there. I started in a village because there was no accommodation for me at Otukpo. I moved to Ojano, a village near Otukpo where my nephew gave me an apartment to use. I stayed there for six years, those years was hell because at that time, I had 15 children. I had to wake up early, bath all of them, prepare them and left them with my aunt before going to the farm. I will work for about 3-4 hours before rushing back, with the hope that the children would be sleeping while I was gone. By 4 pm, I would go back to the farm to fetch firewood and bring some food items.
At that time, I had nothing left because I had to sell all my cars, my land and house at Makurdi. Sometimes, I would come to town to beg for assistance in order to take care of the children. However, God miraculously sent a helper in the person of Vicar Emmanuel Ojaje, who visited the orphanage and sent report to the church headquarters in Lagos. The church made provision for foodstuff and money, and eventually rented an apartment for me at Otukpo and paid for two years.
Shortly after, the two people that were instrumental to how the church came to my aid died and left me with the responsibility of paying the rent.
The Lord again sent another helper to me. He is a German and was working with Dantata and sawoe construction at that time. He helped me renovate the house and started paying the rent. He also assisted in making a case for us on the internet which got us help from different sources.
After a while, the Lord proved Himself faithful by sending a man from Port Harcourt with an instruction to build a house for his children in a dream. He located us and single handedly built the house we currently occupy.
There are rumors that the house was built by Tuface, but he (Tuface), does not know anything about it. Even though Tuface visited us, but he was not part of the building project. After his visit, we couldn’t reach him on all the numbers he gave to us because his “boys” will not allow us access to him.
It is unfortunate that neither the local nor state governments deem it fit to support the orphanage especially during festive periods.
Was there a time you felt like giving up because of all the challenges?
Laughs…. I will say it’s a “bitter sweet” experience. You enjoy whatever you are doing, when you are working with God, because he knows everything and takes care of every situation before it becomes heavy on me, so am so happy. My mind is so relaxed and I count myself as the happiest person under the sun.
Can you tell us some of the happiest moments on this journey?
First of all, the Lord has cast away death and sickness from my children. Am so happy because every moment of my life now is filled with happiness. Everything about my life now when I see these children…. (Pointing to the children) is fulfillment.
How do you get support to run the home?
I get help from market women and men, business men and some individuals, home and abroad. (With a smile)…. That does not stop my farming. Most of the foods we consume are produced from my farm ; the guinea corn, corn, yams, millet, pepper, melon etc. The Lord doubles my effort on every harvest, so am grateful.
The challenge we have now is to complete the fencing of our compound because the man who built the house said anyone who wants to assist should focus on the fence. Though it was partly done by Mr. David Igoche, but we still require assistance to complete it especially now that am getting old.
Can you remember the first child you brought to the home?
The first set of babies I took in were twins. It happened that about a week after I moved to Ojano, I went for a burial where the lady died while giving birth to the twins. I inquired about the children and was shocked when I saw how they were wrapped inside a carton and left outside. It seemed everybody had forgotten about the children because of the loss of their mother. The babies were already weak when I opened the carton but to the glory of God, they were rescued. Two weeks after the incident, the family brought them and they stayed with me for about 2 years before I handed them back to their family.
What were the typical reasons why children were brought to your orphanage?
Some children were brought in by their families when they lost one or both parents while some were abandoned by their parents at the orphanage. For example, some years back, a woman came with two of her children (boy and girl) aged three years and four months and pretended to have come for a visit. Few hours later, the baby started crying, that was when it dawned on my staff that she had disappeared.
What arrangement do you have to reconcile the children who were brought to the orphanage when their parents died?
Breathe deeply… The arrangement we have with most of them is that they will come for the children when they are three years old but that is not always the case. The families don’t come back, even when we take it upon ourselves to locate them, we are usually confronted with the reality that nobody wants to take responsibility for the children. In our home today, we have children of sixteen years and above whose families have refused to come for but to the glory of God, they are all in school, some are currently doing their National Youth Service, while others are married.